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Re: ISSUE-16, ACTION-166: define (data) collection

From: Bjoern Hoehrmann <derhoermi@gmx.net>
Date: Thu, 24 May 2012 00:40:02 +0200
To: "Roy T. Fielding" <fielding@gbiv.com>
Cc: "public-tracking@w3.org Group WG" <public-tracking@w3.org>
Message-ID: <a4jqr7dujssvq09pj0arr6iljcb0rs1juq@hive.bjoern.hoehrmann.de>
* Roy T. Fielding wrote:
>I think we all should understand that collection implies gathering
>together and at least some form of retention.  The above joke by
>Steven Wright depends on the audience knowing that.  We can collect
>seashells by taking them off the beach, not by merely walking by them.
>We can collect photos of seashells by taking each one's picture
>and retaining that picture, not by snapping the shot and then
>deleting it from memory.

I do agree there is an element of "retention" in "collection", but your
interpretation seems to imply that you can do certain things with data
even though you have never collected that data, and I think some people
would find that contradictory.

The joke depends on the idea that all the seashells on the beaches on
the planet have come under the control of Steven Wright at some point
who then put them roughly where they are today. That is a surprising
idea if you usually assume that no human being could or would do that.

If you are at some beach and pick up a seashell and then throw it at a
specific location, are you collection seashells in that place? What if
you throw them across a border you cannot cross? What if you throw the
shells into a bucket filled with hydrochloric acid? What if you are a
magician, ask people to give you seashells, put them somewhere, and if
people look at where you apparently put them, they are not there, so,
did you actually collect the shells?

Your analogies suffer from a number of problems, if you walk past the
seashells they do not actually come under your control. And photos of
them, well, you are presenting a white box example. When a stranger
follows you around taking photos of you, you might worry that they are
collecting photos of you, and would still do so if you confront them
and they say, oh, the camera deletes all the pictures from memory.

When you visit a web page and a script on it determines the resolution
of your screen or your timezone or whatever, and sends that information
to some server, I would say someone or something is collecting that in-
formation, even if it does not last long on the server. They gather it
in one place, on that server. I would think if some web service says it
does not collect information on user's screen resolution, but a script
quite obviously obtains such information from the browser and sends it
back to the service, people would feel mislead.

(Consider the same point for information that is not usually used to
adapt content, like which web pages you have recently visited or which
fonts you have installed; would it be wrong to accume someone that they
are "collecting" this information if their web pages obtain this and
also transmit it back to the server, if there is no particular reason
to do so for content adaption purposes?)
-- 
Björn Höhrmann · mailto:bjoern@hoehrmann.de · http://bjoern.hoehrmann.de
Am Badedeich 7 · Telefon: +49(0)160/4415681 · http://www.bjoernsworld.de
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Received on Wednesday, 23 May 2012 22:40:32 UTC

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